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FICO and Fake-O Credit Scores

In Ken Harney’s column this week, Web Credit Scores Don’t Equal FICO Accuracy [WaPo] [1], he discusses the problem with web-based credit score services.

FICO scores, developed by Fair Isaac Corp. [2], are the predominant credit measure used by the mortgage industry. The scores run from 300 to 850 and are used to predict a borrower’s likelihood of future nonpayment, with higher scores indicative of better creditworthiness.

There are a wide array of other scoring models available online but most are not used by lenders which leads to widespread consumer confusion. Lenders use FICO scores to price mortgages [3]. Lower FICO scores can cost applicants hundreds of dollars a month in higher interest payments and thousands of dollars over the term of the loan. Consumers often pre-screens themselves but can be surprised by the descrepency with the actual score.

“We’re getting a lot of angry conversations about ‘why is your score lower’ than what the consumer got somewhere else” online, Clemans said. But credit-reporting agencies are simply middlemen — purchasing reports and FICO scores from the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and repackaging them for mortgage lenders.

With rising mortgage rates, there will be greater pressure placed on the credit scoring process as affordability weakens.